Getting it right: the art, science and culture of analytical marketing
Marketing speaks with Adele Sweetwood, senior vice president of global marketing and shared services at SAS and author of The Analytical Marketer about the skills, experience and workplace culture necessary for analytical marketers and their teams to flourish.
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This article originally appeared in The Versus Issue, our Feb/March 2017 issue of Marketing mag.
As senior vice president of global marketing and shared services at SAS, Adele Sweetwood guides marketing strategy and go-to-market programs across the company. With 25 years experience at the company, she oversees field and digital marketing investments, demand generation and marketing sciences, as well as retention and event marketing.
Marketing spoke with Sweetwood about what makes the perfect analytical marketer.
Marketing: What does the analytical marketer look like in 2017, and what are the top skills and expertise they possess?
Adele Sweetwood: Marketers can no longer be either creative or analytical. One must be both. An analytical marketer has a passion for data and analytics as their basis for decision-making, and how it enhances the visual and creative side of marketing. The analytical marketer is curious, confident and customer focused.
The skills I look for in marketers now look quite different than they did, say, five years ago – it goes well beyond reporting and metrics.
Knowledge of data management principles and analytical strategies, an understanding of the importance of data quality and data governance, and a solid grasp of the value of data in marketing disciplines are now all essential. A successful contributor is proficient in a full range of analytics, which may include optimisation, text, sentiment, scoring, modelling, visualisation, forecasting and attribution. A data scientist might handle the ‘heavy lifting’, but an analytical marketer must understand and utilise the methods in the design of marketing strategies, the monitoring of results and the agility in decision making.
M: How should an analytical operation correctly balance the ‘art’ and ‘science’ of marketing? Is one more important than the other?
AS: The balance depends on the organisation, its customers and the market. There isn’t a ‘split,’ it is an integration of art and science. The idea is that those marketing tools that typically fall under a ‘creative’ umbrella, such as campaign design, personalisation or digital marketing – should all be driven by analytical decision making.
Ideally, marketers will be able to demonstrate direct accountability to results and very quickly pivot to the needs of the customer. From an organisational structure view, there may be functions that lean more towards the art skills or the science skills, but the overlap continues to grow.
M: How can teams effectively nurture the ‘art’ of their marketing, and the ‘science’?
AS: In addition to a strong learning and development plan, we enable individuals to build out their own plans for continual growth. Formal training, ongoing exchanges, and defined accountability. To leverage the shared strengths of our team, SAS has an internal structure in place to help team members continually learn from each other. We call these ‘competency centres,’ which are virtual task forces whose goal is to allow people inside the organisation to share expertise and knowledge in different areas. The idea behind the competency centres is to leverage the skill sets and experience levels across the organisation so that we can share best practices and learn from each other and from our mistakes. The competency centres also drive innovation by initiating new techniques or approaches.
M: How important is an organisation’s culture to the implementation of successful analytical marketing? What can leaders do to create a better culture for analytical marketing to thrive?
AS: Buy-in from marketing leadership and executives is critical in transitioning to an analytical culture. Leaders need to consistently demonstrate their value in an analytical culture by fully adopting an analytical mindset. Culture has to be nurtured constantly – through empowerment, change management and authentic leadership.
We have established frameworks that have established governance and standards. We provide certifications that are required and align to their objectives for performance, and we supply them with the tools required on their desktop. Marketers thrive in an analytical culture because they have confidence in their decisions.
Leading a modern marketing department also requires tenacity and the willingness to embrace constant change, because we’re bombarded with a constant, daily stream of new information and emerging channels. That means encouraging them to take risks—and being prepared to fail fast—while also having the courage to ask what went wrong and why, so they can learn from the experience and try again.
M: What can individuals do to ensure management realise this importance?
AS: As analytical marketers, individual contributors are empowered to make strategic decisions driven by the data, but the first step is knowing where you stand: what tools are available to you?
Then, find the data and own it. I suggest ditching your spreadsheets. Ultimately you’re using data to better understand your customer, so start by using the data and analytics to tell your customer experience story.
Sharing this story throughout your team and the company builds a guiding coalition of change agents to move the analytical marketing culture forward. Share what you want to do, when you want to do it by, and why you’re doing it with management, the C-suite, and across the company.
Remember, this isn’t just a marketing department journey – you’ll need partners to design and implement a culture that works for everyone, and to drive results together.
Finally, embrace the change and celebrate the wins. Remember that if you expect perfection you’ll never reach it. By establishing milestones, objectives and outcomes you’ll be able to measure your progress and keep people excited about moving forward. It’s important to create a platform for sharing these achievements, especially to management.
A little self-promotion is a great thing!
For me, one of the most exciting parts of analytical marketing in practice is seeing how this has opened up a whole new skill set for my team members, piquing their curiosity in interesting ways. Each provides a higher value to our organisation because they’re able to be proactive and agile. Marketers embracing the shift to analytics are worth more now than ever before.
Harvard Business Review Press
Written by Adele Sweetwood, head of global marketing for SAS, The Analytical Marketer is based on the author’s firsthand experience of transforming a marketing organisation. Challenged and inspired by its own analytics products, the SAS marketing team was forced to rethink itself in order to take advantage of the new capabilities these tools offer the modern marketer.
This book is a practical guide for creating a marketing culture that thrives and adds value through data and analytics.
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